I wrote a blog post called “How I Stopped Hating My Husband (And You Can Too)” in 2013, and it clearly touched a nerve. Four years later it continues to be the source of 2/3 of my web traffic and still solicits comments. It got two more this morning, in fact.
You can read the original post here, but the gist is, I used to get righteously annoyed by my husband pretty much every night, after I had knocked myself out to cook a nutritious and delicious dinner and he didn’t do the dishes to the level of completion that I wanted. The post covers how I shifted my thinking and my own energy around the whole situation. Now dishes are just not a thing we fight about, and they get done to a level of completion that I am totally happy with. (Sometimes I even do them myself even though it’s not my turn! Not often, but sometimes.) And it wasn’t because I lost my shit and yelled at my husband, or gave him a talking to, or threatened to leave. I changed what I had the power to change—myself—and that shift gave my husband an opening to change too. He walked through that opening all on his own.
There are a few things I’ve learned by reading the comments on this post:
- Many people are convinced I’m a sucker and my husband must be an asshole and that I should refuse to cook or only use paper plates
- Or they think I’m a sucker because I made peace with doing the dishes and don’t get pissed off or feel sorry for myself when I do them
- It sounds like a lot of guys out there have wives who hate them because the guys are assholes—abusive, drinking all the time, attached to their video games (if this sounds like you, I still recommend the things I cover in this post but if they don’t work, you’ll know you tried before you opted out)
- Many people are very attached to the idea that the division of labor in a domestic partnership should be 50-50
And that last one is what I want to take aim at—keeping score.
I mean, listen, fairness as a concept is nice. It can help guide you to compromise, which I believe in. But as I’ve been telling my kids since they were old enough to feel like they were getting the short of the stick, life isn’t fair. It’s not. Having an expectation that life should be fair is only going to create your own suffering, because you will be attached to an idea that is false and tying your happiness to an outcome that will rarely come.
Also, keeping score is only going to force you in to a dynamic where someone is always losing. And guess how good that feels? It doesn’t. It feels shitty. Even if you’re “winning” (the daily chores got split right down the middle that day, or you came out ahead by spending less time on household stuff than your husband did) you’re going to be scanning for the next opportunity for you to lose.
If you’re keeping score with your husband, you’re always losing—you’re losing energy, you’re losing peace of mind, and you’re losing any chance at equanimity in your relationship. It gets you nowhere you want to be.
Byron Katie teaches that there are only three kinds of business in the world: my business (the things I have control over—my thoughts, actions, and desires), your business (the things you have control over), and God’s business (the things no one truly has control over, like the weather, or how long you’ll live).
If you want the people you love to take better care of their business, you’ve got to take care of your own business. You’ve got to be the change.
In other words: The only way to get your partner to grow up and be the person you know he or she can be is to grow up and be the person you know you can be.